To photograph or not to photograh?
Taking photos of the eclipse, such as the one below, require hundreds of pictures to be taken within the space of only a couple of minutes – and then literally hundreds of hours of post-processing with the computer in order to achieve this spectacular, world-class result.
Remember that when you set up your equipment, you have to ensure that there is never any chance that anyone could possibly look through an unfiltered camera lens at the Sun! If you’re uncomfortable in any way with the technical aspects of filters, f-stops, and quirks of more advanced photography, best to leave this area to the pros, and concentrate yourself on enjoying the visuals of the eclipse. Burn images into your brain that will be better than photos, and will last the rest of your life!
If you still want to take photos:
- Use a tripod if you have one – if you don’t have one, buy one!
- Use a long enough lens that you’ll actually see something – Phone cameras will need to zoom WAY IN! Standard point-and-shoot cameras will make the sun’s image way too small. You will need at LEAST a 300mm focal length lens. (Test it out on the full Moon – which is about the same size as the Sun – to see what your results will be.)
- Don’t forget to take some grab shots of the horizon and the crowd going nuts during totality.
- Set up a video camera (pointed at the people around you – NOT the Sun!) and let it run during totality, so you can always relive the foolish things you screamed during totality!
- Change ALL your equipment’s batteries to fresh ones, 30 minutes before totality, so you don’t run out!
- Charge all those batteries the night before.
- Remember that when totality hits, you will lose your ability to think clearly – keep it simple!
- Check out the exposures you should use from all the info on the sites listed below.
- Bring small white washcloths to put over each of your cameras so they don’t get hot from sitting in the direct Sun (and wear a hat yourself!).
- Use the proper and correct solar filters (which you must have purchased especially for the purpose – if you don’t have them, do NOT try to photograph the eclipse!) before and after totality, and don’t forget to remove them at second contact when totality starts! (Attach them with strings so you can just flip them off the lens and they won’t fly away.)
- Pre-focus all your cameras on the full Moon two weeks before the eclipse, and tape down the lenses to their focused setting with duct tape.
- Test everything beforehand until you can do it all in your sleep, and then test it again.
- Think of anything that can go wrong, and plan for it.
- Run through the entire sequence of your actions beforehand, until it becomes automatic. (Some people make a recording that they play during the eclipse, to remind them to “do this” and “do that”, at the right times.)
- Make a checklist of everything you’ll need, and check that you’ve packed everything before you leave home.
- See what other people have done, and try to do better/different/your own thing.
- Don’t forget the binoculars – they are the best eclipse viewing tool! (Don’t forget certified filters for them, too – you MUST use special solar filters for the partial phases, or you CANNOT use the binocs!)
- Enjoy your own unique experience, and enjoy the fact that you’ve shared it with so many new friends. Go around and thank them afterward.
REMEMBER TO USE YOUR SOLAR FILTERS while the eclipse is NOT total, and DON’T use filters while the eclipse IS total.
DURING TOTALITY ONLY, it is perfectly safe to look directly at the FULLY eclipsed Sun! If you do not have proper filters for your camera equipment, then DO NOT attempt to take pictures of the eclipse! Your camera’s lens, much like your eyes, needs proper protection. Otherwise, you will damage your camera – whether you are using your phone or a professional camera.
Turning off your flash
Even after having read all the above, we realize most of you will want to try to take a picture of what you’re seeing – eclipses are just that cool! So that you know, here is a sample of what a typical point-and-shoot picture of an eclipse will look like:
We know, it isn’t very exciting. We told you so. But please, if you’re going to take pictures like this, at least have the courtesy to turn your flash off. Every camera and phone has a way to do this, and they’re all pretty similar. Make sure you know how to turn yours off.
Or, you can simply bypass all of this and use our old friend, electrical tape!
So, how do you get better pictures? Well, you gotta have a long lens or telescope. Then, you have to have a way to connect your camera to it. You also need a good, stable tripod with a head that can be tilted to be able to point up at the Sun (some cannot, as most camera tripod manufacturers don’t account for the possibility that their customers will want to point a camera up at the sky!), and you need a cable release to fire your shutter. Plus, you need to have the right exposure settings to capture what you’re interested in: outer corona, inner corona, chromosphere, earthshine, prominences, Baily’s Beads – they all have different exposure settings that work best.
This is a picture of what we would consider the minimum setup:
AND DON’T FORGET THAT YOU HAVE TO HAVE A CERTIFIED SOLAR FILTER TO PLACE OVER THE FRONT OF YOUR LENS! This is only for the times that the Sun is NOT in total eclipse, but it CANNOT be neglected or ignored!
Whether or not you decide to take photos during the eclipse, we hope you get to enjoy the limited time we have in the shadow and are able to make the most out of this incredible event!